Posted: Thu 5th Oct 2023

Headteachers’ Work-to-Rule Stalls Education Policy Review in Blaenau Gwent /
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Oct 5th, 2023

HEADTEACHERS working to rule has caused the process of reviewing and updating education policies for Blaenau Gwent schools to be agreed without meaningful consultation.
At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Cabinet on Wednesday, October 4, a scrutiny committee chairman argued that agreeing tweaks to policies on Inclusion and Additional Learning Needs (ALN) should be postponed to allow headteachers to have their say on them.
The Welsh Government had made a number of changes that need to be embedded in council documents.
Interim director of education Luisa Munro-Morris explained that education watchdog Estyn had advised the council, to involve “key stakeholders particularly headteachers” in discussions around policy.
Dr Munro-Morris said that talks with headteachers had started in January but had ended after the NAHT (National Association of Headteachers) action short of strike (ASOS) came “into force.”
The union balloted members on strike action earlier this year over pay and funding with a 95 per cent vote in favour of ASOS.
This limits the work headteachers and school leaders can do which includes not taking part in surveys, consultations and meetings with the Welsh Government and local authorities.
Dr Munro-Morris said: “All of the people that were engaged in that work were not able to continue, they felt it was against the principle of ASOS.”
Dr Munro-Morris added that other opportunities to discuss the changes including discussions with ALN teaching coordinators not involved in the industrial action had been explored but not followed up.
As a way of getting around the lack of consultation, headteachers on secondment from the education department as well as council officers who have been headteachers, looked at the policy from the point of view of schools.
Dr Munro-Morris said: “Our concern as a directorate is that if these policies don’t go through, we won’t be compliant with Welsh Government changes.”
She added that there is no current end in sight to the industrial action.
People scrutiny committee chairman, Cllr Tommy Smith said that concerns had been expressed at their meeting on September 19 once councillors understood how the process in Blaenau Gwent had been conducted.
Cllr Smith said: “We ask for the report to be deferred and come back once there has been further consultation with headteachers.
“We all want to get this right and I’m sure we’re not the only authority in Wales in this position.”
Dr Munro-Morris told Cabinet members that putting off the decision now, could mean that even if ASOS is called off soon, implementing the decision would not happen until spring next year: “at the earliest.”
She stressed the policy had not “fundamentally changed” from last year.
Socials services portfolio holder Cllr Haydn Trollope said that the council have the duty of care to ALN children in the county borough and needed to “bite the bullet” and agree the tweaks.
Council leader Cllr Steve Thomas said that on balance the needs of ALN children outweighed that of consulting with headteachers and said: “we come down on the side of putting this policy into place.”
The cabinet unanimously supported implementing the policy. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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